“Not seeing the fish” or “Things amateur photographers do”

Posted on 16 May ’12 by Earl Moore

Earl Moore Photography
They’re all Seagulls, but only one sees the fish
It seems almost everyone has a digital camera these days and most of those cameras can make amazingly good photos in the right hands. Yet there is clearly a difference between what a practiced photographer produces and the snapshots the general public takes.

I enjoy watching people, especially those making photos, and have mentally compiled some common traits many “amateur photographers” seem to share:

  • While they may spot the obvious they often overlook the not so obvious;
  • They seldom take time to observe the scene, understand the scene, before they began shooting;
  • Even when drawn to a scene they seldom correctly utilize the strong elements of the scene;
  • Their photos are often shot from the viewpoint of documenting the location, time or those present — as a historical record;
  • If they know any of the general rules of photography they seldom show creativity in breaking them for more effective photos; and
  • Even when they have an advanced camera with many professional options they almost always shoot in program or automatic modes (how many built-in flashes have you seen in almost broad daylight).

Am I wrong on these or can you add others?


What Others Are Saying

  1. pj 16 May ’12 at 3:08 pm

    You summed it up quite well Earl.

    One thing you see here in LA quite often are open topped Hollywood tour buses filled with tourists. The driver will announce some landmark, and hands holding cameras will pop out all over the bus and just as quickly be pulled back in. All in unison.

    I know these are visitors trying to bring a little piece of their trip home, and I don’t begrudge them that. Hell, I do it myself, but it’s still kind of funny to watch…

    • Earl 18 May ’12 at 9:11 am

      pj, yeah, I’ve both seen that and on occasion have done it. :-) Usually when I do it, it’s a last ditch effort and the whole time I’m telling myself there’s almost no chance a photo will be any good…yet, sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised.

  2. Markus 16 May ’12 at 3:10 pm

    * they never use the lens hood, instead leave it reversed on the lens
    * they rarely print, and if so in bulk
    Markus recently posted… From A Grasshopper’s Point Of View

    • Earl 18 May ’12 at 9:12 am

      Markus, two good ones. Thanks!

  3. ken bello 16 May ’12 at 5:44 pm

    It bothers me that some “photographers” don’t get down to eye level with their subjects. We see the top of children’s heads all the time and their feet look tiny. This actually works well if done right, but most of the time it’s just bad.
    ken bello recently posted… AROUND ROCHESTER – The Strong

    • Earl 18 May ’12 at 9:14 am

      Ken, your right. Most always shoot from the same perspective…standing eye level. But then I’ve also see a few, usually younger, who go to the extreme in the other direction and are doing some type of acrobatic dance while photographing.

  4. Otto von Münchow 17 May ’12 at 5:50 am

    I think you are right in some way, but then again different people take pictures for different reasons. When it comes to «serious» amateurs that know something about composition and the rule of thirds and so on, is that they don’t break them enough, but makes them into absolute rules. Otherwise the picture he is very nice. I like that the seagulls all look in different directions.
    Otto von Münchow recently posted… Out of Comfort Zone

    • Earl 18 May ’12 at 9:16 am

      Otto, thanks. Yes, it’s a learning process to reach the point where you accept there are no “laws” of photography and the rules are only guidelines.

  5. Paul Maxim 17 May ’12 at 8:44 am

    Having watched seagull behavior for about a zillion years, I find this image a little strange. Even if other gulls don’t initially see a piece of potential food, they’ll react very quickly when another bird does. They’ll fight over the fish. Or the bird finding it will fly away and the rest will chase him. Or maybe this is the alpha bird? No one else will challenge him? Who knows. But a good image, Earl.

    What bothers me most about those who seem not too experienced with cameras is how they seem to care not one little bit about the light they’re shooting in. I’m not saying that we should all be “light chasers”, but pointing your camera into the sun at some iconic location just seems dumb. Even if you’re just documenting where you were, it isn’t going to work very well. Or taking the long, mildly strenuous walk to Delicate Arch in the morning – when the arch is totally in the shade – makes little sense to me. But people by the hundreds do just that. Every day.

    • Earl 18 May ’12 at 9:28 am

      Paul, I thought the behavior of these seagulls strange as well, which is what initially caught my attention. The other seagulls never challenged this one seagull for the small fish. All I can think is he must have put a serious ass-whooping on the others some time in the past. ;-)

      I’m convinced many people don’t understand the basic principles of light and photography and could care less. When they get a blown out facing the sun photo or details lost in deep shadows photo they see it as a failure of their cameras.

      I wonder if digital cameras have helped people see the relationship of light and photography to a greater extent due to the quicker feedback of digital?

  6. Mark 17 May ’12 at 6:02 pm

    How about “Getting too close to subjects higher on the food chain than you are.”? :-)

    Cool shot Earl – and good observation.
    Mark recently posted… Phlox and more time with the D800

    • Earl 18 May ’12 at 9:34 am

      Mark, Absolutely…I’ve seen it all too often — bears and alligators come to mind immediately.

      Your comment also reminded me of the video recently on the news of the lion pawing and biting at the glass with the baby on the other side in “zebra stripes.” What were that kids parents thinking…even the best of glass and containment fails.

  7. Martina Egli 20 May ’12 at 6:06 am

    That is a gorgeous photograph. I particularly love the beautiful depth of field and the fabulous complimentary tones of orange and blue. Bravo!
    Martina Egli recently posted… Look up!

    • Earl 25 May ’12 at 9:17 am

      Hi Martina, thanks.

  8. yz 23 May ’12 at 3:37 am

    excellent thoughts and a great photo to illiustrate
    yz recently posted… Waterworld

    • Earl 25 May ’12 at 9:16 am

      Thanks, I appreciate it, yz!

  9. Monte Stevens 23 May ’12 at 4:20 pm

    I think you’re right on, Earl. I enjoy this image as it represents well your thoughts.

    • Earl 25 May ’12 at 9:16 am

      Thanks, Monte

  10. KF 20 Jul ’12 at 1:56 pm

    1 – using flash for EVERYTHING, including glass-covered framed prints!

    2a – holding cameras at arms’ length in front of them
    2b – if they have a viewfinder, not using it

    3 – centering all their subjects

    4a – taking photos of people from about twenty feet away so you can hardly make out their faces
    5b – not noting the shadows obscuring features

    .. I could go on.
    KF recently posted… Port Angeles trip – July 4-5, 2012 /Part 2

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